Welcome, Karen Yang!
June 12, 2024

Karen Yang

Nicknamed the “Garden State,” the first thing I noticed when I moved to New Jersey in third grade was the lush greenery that covered every surface - in the numerous parks, of course, but also along highways and backyards, everywhere teemed with trees that were home to trotting foxes and meandering deer. Here, the foliage was dynamic, turning bold shades of red I’d never seen before—at least never in my previous home of Houston, Texas, the oil capital of America and home to arid, yellowing grass. It was like nature was reborn. 

At the same time, I noticed the trash that dotted those trees along highways like doomed wildflowers. I picked up magazines that blared headlines of record melting ice and stalled political progress. In school, I took AP Environmental Science and learned of the devastating intersections between anthropogenic actions and our flailing environment. My passion for history drove me to examine the climate triumphs and tragedies of the past—the work of icons like Rachel Carson and the success of slowly replenishing the ozone layer alongside America’s constant reliance on and history of fossil fuels, particularly in politics. I embraced the pockets of hope I found in coming of age with Greta Thunberg, seeing the power of disruption and youth. 

In college, I continued learning about the multifaceted dimensions of climate science—the technical aspects of energy flows, but also the anthropogenic impacts: climate’s impact on art, business, law/policy, and government. In my first semester, I took Climate Crossroads, a class taught by Professor Jim Engell and Professor Jim Anderson, who helped discover the ozone hole above Antarctica in 1987. Both Professor Anderson’s historic actions but also Professor Engell’s decision to incorporate climate fiction and literature into the syllabus captivated me. By listening to podcasts about climate healing and reading poetry and short stories influenced by people’s climate fears, I saw that climate science, policy making, and communication go hand in hand. 

In my second semester of college, I took another class, the Ethics of Climate Change. Here, we learned to examine many of the ideas presented in my economics class—pareto efficiencies, the cost benefit analysis framework—and how they failed once applied to our natural world. I became interested in climate finance, as our professor pushed us to consider: how do we value clean air and water in the present but also in the future? What kinds of moral obligations do we have to the future anyway? We once again turned to literature and media. In particular, I saw the importance of transparent and accurate media reporting, a foundation for both action and hope. 

Communications and climate change (and science in general) go hand in hand. In ,my past internship experience at NASA Langley Research Center, I worked with different scientists, engineers, media, and students on finding common ground. These conversations and efforts have shown me the value in intertwining STEM and humanities subjects, of making science and data easily disseminated and understood, of breaking down obscure resources into more digestible multimedia formats. Reading and watching Naomi Oreskes’ Merchants of Doubt solidified the importance of clear communication in spreading accurate information, it’s further clear to see that climate change action and policies require media efforts. After all, communications and media can transform fear into action. This summer, by learning more about SEEKCommons and its convenings, working on making the Data Dialogues podcast more accessible, and researching my own policy explainer, I hope to aid in this effort.